Getting up to speed

KEN WIEBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

Let the battles begin.

Though this is merely going to serve as the appetizer to the real thing, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hit the field this afternoon for the first of three days of rookie camp.

Roughly 35 to 40 hopefuls begin to strut their stuff and while most of them are expected to advance to main camp, which begins with two-a-days on Sunday, it's never too early to start making an impression.

"It's an opportunity for all these young guys to come in and develop a familiarity with the coaches and each other, within the systems they're going to be participating in," said Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry, back for his third season in the big chair. "So that when they start practising with the vets, they should have an opportunity to show what their physical abilities are. That they're not inundated and overwhelmed with the learning process and everything that they have to go through on the field.

"It's more for the mental approach than the physical."

Berry is looking forward to seeing his four quarterbacks -- Kevin Glenn, Ryan Dinwidddie and newcomers Bryan Randall and Cleve McCoy -- on the field for the first time.

"We're going to start evaluating those guys," said Berry.

Blue Bombers general manager Brendan Taman took care of some official business yesterday, inking five free agents to contracts and locking up his final two unsigned 2008 CFL draft picks, receiver Aaron Hargreaves out of Simon Fraser (second round) and defensive lineman Don Oramasionwu of the Manitoba Bisons (fifth round).

Oramasionwu signed on the dotted line yesterday morning, while Hargreaves was slated to sign his deal last night.

All six players drafted by the Blue Bombers will be on the field today.

FREE AGENTS SIGNED

The five free agent signings announced included receiver Kerry Johnson, offensive lineman Bruce McCaleb, defensive back Willie Amos, cornerback Josh Lay and non-import defensive back Steven Holness.

Johnson is the most recognizable name in the group and spent most of last season on the Blue Bombers practise roster.

He appeared in one regular season game and picked up four catches for 49 yards.

Johnson figures to get a closer look since slotback Milt Stegall won't participate in training camp due to arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and might not be ready for the season opener on June 27 against the Toronto Argonauts.

McCaleb spent last season at Delta State and offers versatility on the offensive line as he can play centre, guard and tackle.

Amos, who played for the University of Nebraska, can play corner or receiver but he's being looked at as a defensive back.

Lay played four years at the University of Pittsburgh and was a sixth round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2006.

The Saints seventh round pick that year was Marques Colston, who blossomed into one of Drew Brees' favourite targets.

Holness, who is known for his speed, spent the past four seasons at the University of Ottawa, where he competed for the Gee Gees track team and was a starting DB the past two seasons.

Taman said he was also looking forward to "re-familiarizing" himself with the players in camp and was interested to see how much guys like Johnson and returner Willie Foster, who made a cameo late last season before he was replaced by Keith Stokes, had improved during the off-season.

"There were some guys I haven't seen (live) or Doug hasn't seen, so it's always good to get a fresh view of them in person," said Taman. "Little things like that."

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BOMBERS ROOKIE CAMP

At Canad Inns Stadium

Wednesday, May 28

3:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Thursday, May 29

9:15 a.m. to 11 a.m.

11:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Friday, May 30

9:15 a.m. to 11 a.m.

11:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 31

Medicals for veteran players, all day

Sunday, June 1

Main camp two-a-days begin

8:00 a.m. - 10:20 a.m.

10:40 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.


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